Tuesday, August 31, 2010

4 in the Zone

The Delaware Department of Education has named the four schools who will be in the Performance Zone next year: Stubs Elementary and Glasgow High in Christina, Howard Vo-Tech in New Castle County Vo-Tech District, and a charter school in Camden called Positive Outcomes.

These schools will be under direction of DOE and will receive extra funds from the Race To The Top grant. The affected districts have 120 days to seek input from teachers and parents and submit a plan to DOE. The schools are expected to choose a plan under the Transformation model that allows the most flexibility with the least disruption to students.

Elections are coming. Tuesday, September 14th is primary election day. If you are a DSEA member, contact your Local leader or UniServ Director for volunteer opportunities.
The Delaware State Education Association will once again march in the annual Labor Day Parade in Wilmington. Join us, and bring your family. We will meet on Monday, September 6th at 9:15AM on 15th and King Street. You will receive one of the cool new Great Schools, Great Communities tee shirts for your effort.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Welcome Back and Welcome Funds

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. old Chinese proverb
Welcome back hard working educators.

After a great deal of lobbying from educators all over the country, school districts now have a new infusion of federal money to spend on educators. The Education Jobs Fund Program was a response to frightening number educator layoffs across the country. Without intervention schools would be under staffed and the fledgling economic recovery would suffer a setback. Fortunately, Congress acted and most of the laid off educators across the country will be returning to classrooms this autumn.

Delaware school districts will receive almost $27.5 million. The federal money will be passed through the state to local school districts using either a Title 1 funding formula or a school foundation formula. A state may not use more than 2% of the allocation for administrative costs. School districts will receive the money within the next few weeks.

According the United States Department of Education's Initial Guidance for States on the Education Jobs Fund Program: "An LEA (local school district) must use its funds only for compensation and benefits and other expenses, such as support services, necessary to retain existing employees, to recall or rehire former employees, and to hire new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, or secondary educational and related services."

A school district may not use funds for district level administrators, for consultants, or for any contracted-out service.

A school district which has already found a way to rehire laid off employees may save the funds for use no later than September 30, 2012.

US Education Department officials say that there is a great deal of accountability and transparency for school districts on the use of the funds.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Victory Today

Today, the US House of Representatives approved the final version of the education jobs bill by a vote of 247 to 161. Most Republicans voted "no"; however, Delaware's Mike Castle voted "yes". Last week in the US Senate both Senators Kaufman and Carper voted for the bill.

The National Education Association mounted an enormous grassroots lobbying effort to pass the critical funding legislation for both education jobs and FMAP (Medicaid). Thanks to these efforts 161,000 educators who were laid off this spring will now be heading back to work in the autumn.

Delaware will receive almost $28 million that may be applied towards saving the jobs of about 400 educators who received either Reduction In Force or termination of temporary contract in May.

Every activist who made a phone call or sent an email or letter for their colleagues should be proud of their efforts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Time IS Right

This week I had the privilege of participating in a Salary Roundtable conference hosted by the National Education Association. The discussion was about raising the salaries of educators, both teachers and support personnel.

Why have a conference about raises when the country is still under the pall of a persistent recession?

First, our educators are given professional expectations, thus it should follow that their compensation is viewed in the light of professionalism. Professionals never devalue their services even in tough economic times. If you have utilized a doctor, lawyer, dentist, accountant, or other professional recently, I truly doubt that individual offered you a steep discount in the fee because "times are hard". Yet, educators have been asked for both salary cuts and benefit reductions in the last two years.

Second, our members are worth every penny they are paid and much more. The value of educators' work product has not diminished because of the recession. In fact, Race To The Top is supposed to be significantly increasing the value of that product.

Third, there is never a "good time" to ask for more in wages. What employer, public or private ever encourages workers to ask for more money? Moreover, the current slow growth economy could last for many more years. Using a real world example; a para-professional in the state of Delaware begins their career at $17,228 per year. It takes them more than a decade of service to reach compensation at the federal poverty line for a family of four. Should we wait for 3 or 4 or 6 years for the economy take off before we do something about this situation? In 2015 should we have a person being paid $17K a year?

Fourth, we have historical precedent for wage increases now. In the 1930s and '40s US workers organized in record numbers and demanded fair compensation...in the heart of the Great Depression.

Finally, the impoverishment of educators does not do a solitary thing to help other impoverished workers or the economy in general. A major ill of the current economic situation is that too much money has accumulated in the hands of the top 1% of the population. People like bankers taking home $100 million a year or hedge fund managers who before the crash made as much as $1 billion in single year. All of this money needs to be shaken out of the top and down to the common people so that they can start spending and living again. There are not many ways to do that. Progressive taxation is one way to do it. Another way is for large groups of workers to begin to demand the wages they deserve. Let it begin with the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The US Senate just passed a bill giving states $10 billion to save education jobs and providing $16 billion in FMAP (Medicaid) funding. The legislation passed 61 to 39. Both Senator Kaufman and Senator Carper voted for the bill.

The bill must now go to the House. The House is on recess, but Speaker Pelosi is calling her chamber back into session next week just for this legislation. The House will come back next week to decide the fate of the bill. In Delaware, the education funding means $27.4 million to save close to four hundred educator jobs.

Nothing is Ever Dead

The old saying that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes does not apply to the US Congress, where nothing is ever really dead and many powerful interests are not taxed. So, while it is not certain, it does appear that there will be federal money to save education jobs around the country, including Delaware.

This blog has reported before on the importance of giving states relief in two areas: Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) and education. Any state budget will have two expenditure areas that are very large, education and health care. Using a loose lay person's explanation, think of education funding being one third of your state's budget, health care being another third of the state's budget, and all the other services and needs competing over the remaining third, and you have a snapshot of the state fiscal picture.

FMAP is Medicaid funding from the federal government. Many times the federal government reimburses states at a two to one or even three to one rate for their spending on the health care of their citizens. Thus, FMAP is critical to not only the health of a state's citizens, but also to the health of the state's budget. Moreover, Medicaid patients make up an important market share of the health care industry.

The combined impact of the severe recession and the rapid push for reform have made federal education funding much more important than in the past. The recession has swelled the ranks of public school enrollment as families previously using private schools can no longer afford them. At the same time, recession means much less tax revenue to pay educators, and thus layoffs. Meanwhile, the education reform juggernaut continues with more demands, but with grant moneys so tightly earmarked that they do not save educator jobs.

The entire summer National Education Association (NEA) and all her affiliates such as DSEA have worked to pass legislation for federal money to save education jobs. There have been many false starts, many failed efforts, but persistence appears to have paid off.

Under the leadership of Senator Harry Reid, the Senate has put together legislation to provide the critical funding for both FMAP and education jobs. A vote on cloture (to eliminate the possibility of filibuster) was held yesterday and passed 61 to 38. Both our Delaware senators took the good vote for cloture.

Our predictions are that the legislation will pass the Senate today. The House is already on recess. However, this legislation is so important to the education, health, and fiscal well being of citizens around the country, that Speaker Pelosi is calling the House back into session next week just to pass the bill.

We will keep you posted.